By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank RiverCenter, the special improvement district overseer, has taken over administrative control of the program, which was previously loosely run by individual stores and restaurants, said agency executive director Jim Scavone.
In addition, two zones – one for drop-off and one for pick-up – have been reduced to one since Monday night. That means this weekend will be the first test of whether the new arrangement – which is actually a reversion to the original set-up – will be adequate, said Scavone, who plans to work Thursday night to observe the activity.
The drop-off zone and the pick-up area will now share six spaces just north of the Mechanic Street intersection on Thursday through Saturday nights, and four spaces the rest of the week.
That marks a return to the original set-up, which was changed 15 months ago, when the second zone and four spaces were added outside Char, taking up to 10 spaces from street parking.
News of the latest changes followed complaints by Councilwoman Cindy Burnham that valets were driving cars the wrong way down one-way Mechanic Street to park vehicles in the municipal lots east of Broad Street. She said she had witnessed the violation twice.
Mayor Pasquale Menna weighed in with complaints of his own.
“No one is more in favor of valet parking than I am,” he began, but said he’d sent at least 10 emails in the past month to the police department in the past two months” about the program.
RiverCenter is now acting as a liaison to parking vendor Carcierge, though it has no contract, Scavone said.
Carcierge, the parking vendor, recently upped its fee to $7 per car, from $5, to make up for lower volume experienced during this winter’s many snowstorms, said Scavone. The fee is paid by patrons, though RiverCenter plans to explore the possibility of having stores and restaurants validate for their patrons, he said.
The program “doesn’t cost the town or RiverCenter anything,” he said.
Is the valet parking elitist? Scavone said he hears that complaint, but notes that on a busy night, the valets may take 60 to 80 cars off the streets downtown, leaving that many free spaces for visitors who don’t use the service.
“In terms of parking economics, we’re getting a lot out of it,” he said.
Though there are always people who’ll complain, he noted, recalling one Char patron called RiverCenter to complain that she could not pick up her car exactly where she had left it, and had to cross Mechanic Street to the pick-up zone, which is just steps away.